Bray, County Wicklow
Féile agus Fáilte (Irish)
"Hospitality and Welcome"
|• Total||7.55 km2 (2.92 sq mi)|
|Elevation||18 m (59 ft)|
|• Density||4,317/km2 (11,180/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+0 (WET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-1 (IST (WEST))|
|Eircode (Routing Key)|
|Area code(s)||01 (+3531)|
|Irish Grid Reference||O264185|
Bray (Irish: Bré [bʲɾʲeː]) is a coastal town in north County Wicklow, Ireland. It is situated about twenty kilometres (12 mi) south of Dublin city centre on the east coast. It has a population of 32,600 making it the ninth largest urban area within Ireland (at the 2016 census). Bray is home to Ardmore Studios, and some light industry is located in the town, with some business and retail parks on its southern periphery. Commuter links between Bray and Dublin are provided by rail, Dublin Bus and the M11 and M50 motorways. Small parts of the town's northern outskirts are in County Dublin.
Originally developed as a planned resort town in the 19th century, Bray's popularity as a seaside resort was serviced by the Dublin and Kingstown Railway, which was extended to Bray in 1854. During the late 20th century, the town's use as a resort declined when foreign travel became an option for holiday-makers. However, day-trippers continued to come to Bray during the summer months.
The name Bray is an anglicisation of the Irish Bré, whose meaning is unclear. Liam Price suggested it may be an old name for the River Dargle or a tributary. In 1875 P. W. Joyce mistakenly ascribed the Irish name Brí, an old word meaning "hill", referring in this case to Bray Head. In a 1905 Gaelic League publication advocating use of Irish-language postal addresses, Seosamh Laoide coined the name Brí Cualann "Brí in Cualu", as part of his policy that "If the name of the town [in Irish] be one word, the [ancient Gaelic] territory should be added to it in the genitive case". Brí and Brí C[h]ualann remained in use in the mid 20th century despite having been refuted by Liam Price and Osborn Bergin. Bré was adopted by statute in 1975.
The town is situated on the east coast to the south of County Dublin. Shankill, County Dublin lies to the north, and Greystones, County Wicklow to the south. The village of Enniskerry lies to the west of the town, at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains. People participate in such sports as sailing, rowing, and swimming. The beach and seafront promenade are used by residents and visitors. While Bray's promenade and south beach is to a Blue Flag standard, the north beach has been impacted by erosion and leaching pollution since the closure and sale of a municipal landfill in the late 20th century.
The River Dargle which enters the sea at the north end of Bray rises from a source near Djouce, in the Wicklow Mountains. Bray Head is situated at the southern end of the Victorian Promenade with paths leading to the summit and along the sea cliffs. The rocks of Bray Head are a mixture of greywackes and quartzite. There is a large cross at the summit.
Bray has a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb), similar to most other towns in Ireland, with few extremes of temperature and ample precipitation all year round and an annual average rainfall of 800 millimetres (31 in). Weather in Bray is very similar to that of nearby Dublin. The average annual temperature is 9.9 °C (49.8 °F).
In medieval times, Bray was on the southern border of the Pale, and the coastal district was governed directly by the English crown from Dublin Castle. Inland, the countryside was largely under the control of Gaelic Chieftains, such as the O'Toole and O'Byrne clans. Bray features on the 1598 map "A Modern Depiction of Ireland, One of the British Isles" by Abraham Ortelius as "Brey". The Earl of Meath purchased the Killruddery Estate in Bray in 1627 with the establishment of the Earl title. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Bray was a small manorial village, but during the latter part of the 18th century, the Dublin middle-classes began to move to Bray.
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway, the first in Ireland, opened in 1834 and was extended as far as Bray in 1854. With the coming of the railway in the mid-19th century, the town grew to become a seaside resort. It was developed primarily by local entrepreneurs as a planned resort town, modelled on the seaside resorts of the English south-coast, specifically Brighton. Hotels and residential terraces were built in the vicinity of the seafront. Railway entrepreneur William Dargan developed the Turkish baths, designed in a Moorish style at a cost of £10,000; built in 1859, these were demolished in 1980.
Bray was a popular destination from the 1860s onwards. While small amenities such as regattas, firework displays and band performances were plentiful in the town, Bray failed to secure the necessary capital to develop major attractions and sustain tourism, leading to its decline in the early 1900s. Pleasure piers such as the Palace Pier were a mainstay of resorts at that time. Despite repeated efforts, Bray never acquired such a pier and abandoned plans to build one in 1906. Additional planned amenities which were never built included a concert hall, a theatre, an exhibition centre, a marine aquarium, winter gardens and an electrified tramway along the seafront. It experienced a brief revival from British tourists in the years immediately after World War II. However, Bray's popularity as a seaside resort declined significantly when foreign travel became an option for holiday-makers. Its proximity to Dublin still makes it a popular destination for day-trippers from the capital.
A public transport network, both north into Dublin and south into County Wicklow and County Wexford, serves the town. Bray is on the Irish Rail DART Rail Network which stretches north to Malahide and Howth and south to Greystones. The town is also on the mainline InterCity and Commuter rail network which connects north to Connolly Station in Dublin city centre and further to Drogheda and Dundalk. To the south, the rail line goes through Arklow and Gorey before reaching Rosslare Europort. Bray's railway station is named after Edward Daly, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Bray Station was opened on 10 July 1854.
Six bus companies pass through Bray: Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Ireland, Bus Éireann, Finnegan's Bray, Aircoach, and St. Kevin's Bus Service to Glendalough. Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland are the two primary bus operators in the town operating service on behalf of the NTA. Bus services serving the town include the 145 which serves the town between Ballywaltrim just south of Bray to Heuston Station serving UCD and Dublin city centre along the way. Other routes serving the town include the 45A/B, 84/A, 84N, 155, 184 and 185. Finnegan's Bray also offer a nightlink service from Dublin. Aircoach operates a service to and from Dublin Airport.
Dublin Airport is reachable via the M50 which passes to the west of Dublin City. The AirCoach has two stops in Bray to and from Dublin Airport. Newcastle Aerodrome is the closest private airfield a short distance south of Bray.
Bray has a growing population of permanent residents. It increases in the warmer seasons with tourists from Dublin and other countries.
Bray is represented on Wicklow County Council by two local electoral areas. Bray East is approximately two-thirds of the town, while Bray West is the other third and includes the neighbouring villages of Enniskerry and Kilmacanogue and several small townlands such as Glencree. Bray Municipal District consists of both of these local electoral areas.
The following are the eight councillors representing Bray at Bray Municipal District and Wicklow County Council. The local elections took place in 2019.
|Bray East||Bray West|
|Green||Erika Doyle*||Independent||Joe Behan|
|Sinn Féin||Grace McManus||Fine Gael||Melanie Corrigan|
|Fine Gael||Aoife Flynn Kennedy||Sinn Féin||Dermot O'Brien|
|Labour||Anne Ferris||Independent||Rory O'Connor|
|* Steven Matthews was a councillor for Bray East from June 2019 until February 2020. After his election to Dáil Éireann in the 2020 general election, Erika Doyle was co-opted to the seat for the Green Party.|
Bray was formerly governed by an urban district council until this was replaced by a town council by the Local Government Act 2001. This, in turn, was abolished by the Local Government Reform Act 2014, with the powers and functions of the town council given to the county council, but its functions could be administered by the new municipal district council created by the act.
Part of the northern Bray area lies within the local authority area of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, and forms part of the Shankill–Killiney local electoral area. The border between County Wicklow and County Dublin (Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown) lies along Old Connaught Avenue and runs down along and across the Dublin Road to Ravenswell, making all areas north of that line Bray, County Dublin.
Bray is a long-established holiday resort dating back to the early 19th century. The Parliamentary gazetteer of 1846 described it thusly:
The town has for many years been a favourite summer resort of the wealthier of the Dublin citizens and of the gentry from a large part of Ireland; and it possesses, in a state of high facility and polish, the various appliances required for their accommodation and comfort, whether as lodgers or as tourists. Handsome cottages ornees, boarding houses on different scales of economy, and furnished houses from the small abode to the luxurious mansion, abound both in the town and in its environs, for the special use of visitors.
Bray has numerous hotels and guesthouses, shops, restaurants and evening entertainment. The town also hosts a number of festival events. In the town's vicinity are an 18-hole golf courses, a tennis club, fishing, a sailing club and horse riding. Other features of Bray are the amusement arcades and the National Sealife Centre. It has a beach of sand and shingle which is over 1.6 km (1 mi) long, fronted by an esplanade and Bray Head, which rises 241 m (791 ft) from the coast, has views of mountains and sea. The concrete cross at the top of Bray head was erected in 1950 for the holy year.
Bray is used as a base for walkers, and has a 1.5-kilometre-long (1 mi) promenade which stretches from the harbour, with its colony of mute swans, to the base of Bray Head at the southern end. A track leads to the summit. Also used by walkers is the seven kilometres (4+1⁄2 mi) Cliff Walk along Bray Head out to Greystones.
In January 2010, Bray was named the "cleanest town in Ireland" in the 2009 Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) survey of 60 towns and cities.
Tourist sites in the area include the Elizabethan-revival mansion Killruddery House (which is open to the public in the summer months), and the hill and headland at Bray Head (which has a number of walking trails). Raheen-a-Cluig, a medieval church which is catalogued as national monument, is located on the north face of Bray Head. Other religious sites and churches in the area include the Fassaroe Cross (12th century), the Holy Redeemer Church, Bray (1792), and the Gothic Revival churches of Christ Church (1863) and Bray Methodist Church (1864).
Festivals and events
The Bray St. Patrick's Carnival and Parade is presented by Bray & District Chamber to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, and is a five-day festival of carnival events, parades and live entertainment.
Bray also hosts a yearly silent film festival, the Killruddery Film Festival in Killruddery Gardens. Bray Jazz Festival takes place annually on the May bank holiday weekend and includes performances by jazz and world music artists.
The annual Bray Summerfest takes place over six weeks in July and August and includes free entertainment, live music, markets, sporting events, and carnivals. Performers who have headlined include Mundy, Brian Kennedy, the Undertones, the Hothouse Flowers and Mary Black. In 2006, over 60,000 visitors attended the festival weekend in mid-July. Bray hosts an air display during the Summerfest in late July whose participants include the Royal Air Force Red Arrows and the Irish Air Corps.
Pubs and restaurants
Bray's pubs and restaurants include the first Porterhouse bar, who brew their own ales, stouts and beers. In 2010, the Lonely Planet Guide ranked the Harbour Bar in Bray the Best Bar in the World and the Best off the Beaten Track Bar in the world. The O'Toole family owned the bar for three generations, but it was bought by the Duggan family in 2013. The Duggans also operate two seafront premises, Katie Gallagher's and the Martello, both include restaurants on site.
There are twelve fully licensed restaurants, several unlicensed restaurants and cafes, and fast food outlets in Bray. In 2015, The Irish Times published a study which analysed the presence of fast food outlets in Ireland. Bray was found to have the lowest per capita concentration of the ten towns and cities included, with just 0.09 stores per 1,000 people.
Bray is home to Ireland's oldest film studios, Ardmore Studios, established in 1958, where films such as Excalibur, Braveheart and Breakfast on Pluto have been shot. Custer's Last Stand-up was filmed in Bray and the town was also used to film Neil Jordan's 2012 film Byzantium, part of which was shot in the Bray Head Inn. Neil Jordan's 1991 film The Miracle is set in Bray.
The Mermaid Arts Centre is the only venue for cinema in Bray.
Theatre and literature
Authors who have lived in Bray have included James Joyce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Molly Keane and Neil Jordan. Situated on Eglinton Road is a Carnegie Library dating from 1910. There is also another library serving the Ballywaltrim district on Boghall Road, at the southern end of the town
Bray is home to League of Ireland football club Bray Wanderers who play at the Carlisle Grounds. It also hosts schoolboy football club Ardmore Rovers and Wolfe Tone F.C. The local Gaelic Athletic Association club's are Fergal Og's and Bray Emmets. Bray Emmets Established in 1885, the club hosts the annual All-Ireland Kick Fada Championship.
There are a number of golf clubs and pitch & putt courses in the area, including Bray Golf Club, Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, and Old Conna Golf Club. Bray is also host to Bray Bowling Club, which trains in Fáilte Park, and there is 10 Pin Bowling at the Bray Bowling Alley.
There is fishing in both the River Dargle and on the sea coastline, and a number of clubs locally, including Bray Head Fishing Club and Dargle Anglers Club. Other clubs and facilities in the area include Bray Wheelers Cycling Club, Brennanstown Riding School, Bray Sailing Club, Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club, founded in 1894 and located on Vevay Road, Bray Hockey Club, and Wicklow County Cricket Club.
A short-lived greyhound racing track existed in the town from 1949 until 1955, run by the Bray Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. In December 1947, notice was given that a track would be constructed at Sunnybank but the Wicklow County Manager refused the application. However, the greyhound company continued to build the facilities and in 1949 the track opened. It was not until 1950 that the High Court ruled against the company for building without planning permission and levied a fine of £470. The dispute continued until, in 1955, the track was bought by Bray Urban Council under a compulsory purchase order. The site, consisting of almost five acres, was bought at £440 per acre, and 36 houses were built on the land.
There are approximately 13 primary schools in the Bray area, including national schools (like Saint Cronan's Boys' National School), gaelscoileanna, a co-educational day school (St. Gerard's School), and schools for special needs. Secondary schools in the area include Saint Brendan's College, Loreto Secondary School and St. Kilian's Community School and Presentation College, Bray. A number of "English as a foreign language" and third-level schools also operate locally, including Bray Institute of Further Education.
Bray has a number of commercial and industrial parks, including Bray Industrial Estate, Killarney Road Industrial Estate, Solus Tower Industrial Estate, and Southern Cross Business Park.
Former or current residents of the town have included:
- Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, fifth President of Ireland
- Dara Ó Briain, comedian and television host
- Denzil Lacey, former RTÉ 2fm and current Spin South West presenter
- Eddie Jordan, former racing driver and Jordan Grand Prix founder
- Seamus Costello, founding member of the Irish National Liberation Army
- Ed Joyce, professional cricketer
- Fergal Devitt, professional wrestler in WWE, who wrestles under the name Finn Bálor
- Fionn Regan, musician
- James Joyce, writer
- Jordan Devlin, professional wrestler in WWE
- Katie Taylor, world, European, and Olympic boxing gold medalist
- Laura Whitmore, TV personality and presenter
- Lennox Robinson, dramatist and poet
- Maria Doyle Kennedy, singer and actress who resided in the town as a child.
- Mary Coughlan, singer who resides in the town
- Sinead O'Connor, singer who resides in the town
- Sheridan Le Fanu, writer of gothic horror and mystery novels
- William Wilde and Jane Wilde, the parents of Oscar Wilde, built properties on Esplanade Terrace in 1863, one of which is now the Strand Hotel
- Thomas Langlois Lefroy, politician and judge, who lived in his family estate in Newcourt
- Darren Randolph, goalkeeper for the Republic of Ireland national football team
- Gary O'Toole, former Irish Olympic swimmer from Bray
- Eamon de Buitlear, writer, filmmaker and traditional Irish musician
- Keith Nolan, professional golfer, former GB & Ireland Walker Cup player, and PGA Tour player
- Fran O'Toole, former lead singer in The Miami Showband, murdered in the Miami Showband massacre of July 1975.
- Hozier, singer and songwriter
- Suzanne Crowe, President of the Medical Council of Ireland
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bray, County Wicklow.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article "Bray (Ireland)".|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bray.|
- Bray on-line
- Bray Town Council (Wayback Machine archive)
- Bray on Wicklow Tourism
- Bray in Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837